Friday, January 21, 2011

Birding by the mall (and the airstrip)

When my mother-in-law told me that she needed to do some shopping at the mall, I immediately offered myself to give her a ride. She wanted to go to the transport terminal's mall next to the Panama City's domestic airport, where Ken Allaire reported a flock of Killdeers some days ago. I grabbed my camera and my binoculars, left her at the mall and started to search the surroundings. The first thing I noticed was a big flock of Laughing Gulls having a bath in a rain pond at the parking lot. They have become common in the transport terminal during the last years, surely feeding on the drivers' lunches leftovers (as in other sites, the Western Gulls at the L.A. airport comes to my mind). I drove the "Marginal Este" Avenue that runs along the fence of the airstrip, checking the grasslands and finding some common birds at the tiny marsh. Several Great Egrets and a Little Blue Heron where feeding there, plus some Wattled Jacanas. The adults and youngs might not be more different! The black birds with red frontal shields and wattles, and yellow bills are adults... the white-&-brown birds with white eyebrows are immatures. Both have contrasting yellow flight feathers and long toes to walk over the floating vegetation... and both are noisy. These birds are also known by their peculiar familiar dynamics: a female lay the eggs in several nests where the males incubate them. The females are quite aggresive and will not tolerate another female in their territory. I also saw at least four different Southern Lapwings working the short grass. These birds are regular there, usually detected by their loud calls and showy flight pattern. After a while, a rainstorm prevented me from continuing checking the airstrip, so I waited for my mother-in-law inside the car. By the time I picked her, the rain stopped and I did a last check to the airstrip... hearing the Killdeers! They were in a track of mud recently created by the construction works at the airstrip. At first it was frustating... we heard them everywhere, but we were not able to see them. Surely they were alarmed by the Crested Caracara that landed in the track. After a while, I started to detect them far away... close to the Caracara. First one, then two more, and more.... finally I counted no less than eight individuals! I tried to photograph them, but the photos were not good enough due to the distance. Anyway, you can identify them by their characteristic double breast band and general jizz. Notice that there are two of them in the photo with the flying Caracara (OK, you may need to enlarge ALL the photos, please ignore the noise). What a great bird to find within the city. It is kind of curious that I have already seen two different flocks of Killdeers this month, considering that I didn't see a single one last year. Thank you Ken for the info, another proof that you can get surprises almost anywhere in Panama!

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